The Zambian government has uncovered an alleged scam where a family formed cooperatives for the sole purpose of getting inputs under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).
This as the Ministry of Agriculture conducts a review of the programme to prevent abuses before the roll-out of FISP for the new farming season.
“The practice is widespread where cooperatives involving family members are formed just to get agriculture inputs,” said a source close to the investigation.
In terms of legislation, cooperatives are intended to drive agriculture development at grassroots.
According to the source, the cooperatives were mostly dormant, but became active when government started distributing agricultural inputs.
“Eliminating such abuses is part of the strict measures for weaning farmers from the programme within two to three years,” the source said.
Earlier investigations revealed 20 000 so-called ghost farmers who benefitted from FISP. They were removed from the project.
This year, government will roll-out a fully fledged electronic voucher (e-voucher) payment system targeting 1.6 million small-scale farmers.
According to Finance Minister Felix Mutati, implementing the e-voucher system in full will curb wasteful expenditure which was rife when FISP was administered manually.
The cost of FISP increased to K2.3 billion from K1.8 billion in the last two years. This drew criticism of the programme as unsustainable, especially because of low economic growth rates.
The new system will also cover more crops. This includes tomatoes, cassava, cashew nuts and groundnuts. Previously, the programme largely covered maize.